The Silex Lady Owls culminated a fantastic season, coming home with two wins from Springfield and another state championship for the school. They defeated two teams who have Eagles as the team moniker; Knox County 9-2 on a cold, windy day Oct. 19 and then built a lead but held off a late Naylor rally for a 7-6 win in the championship game Saturday played at Killian Softball Complex. The wins capped a 24-1 season for Coach Robert James and his Lady Owls.
Following the team was a loud and boisterous student body and community supporters. In the semifinal game, Silex struck early and then often. After a 1-2-3 first inning, the Lady Owls began an offensive onslaught which they finished with 16 team hits. They pushed across five innings in their half of the first. Sophomore Ashley Brown reached base on a fielder’s choice and scored on a double by Natalie Fleming. Madison Henke then drove in Fleming. Hannah Pratt waited all year but then hit a two-run home run for his first round-tripper of the year. She finished the game with three RBIs on a 3 for 4 day to pace the attack. Kimmy Duggan drove in the final run.
The Lady Owls threatened in the third inning as they loaded the bases but didn’t plate a run. In the fourth inning, Mackenzie Hustead hit a solo home run for the Lady Eagle. The Lady Owls, not deterred, pushed across three runs in the bottom of the inning highlighted by a two-run home run by Ashley Brown. Pratt also drove in a run in that frame, extending Silex’s lead to 8-1. In the fifth, Lindsey Barnhart had an RBI to round out Silex’s scoring. Knox County had scored in the top of that inning.
Fleming threw a complete game for the Lady Owls. In seven innings, she allowed eight hits, two earned runs, struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. Offensively, Duggan had four hits in four at-bats with Pratt following with three hits. Getting two hits apiece were Brown, Barnhart, Henke and Brittany Howard. After her double, Fleming was walked three times in the game.
This advanced them into the championship game against Naylor, a small school located near Poplar Bluff. Silex started strong, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings. Getting the Lady Owls off early in the first was Barnhart who send a pitch sailing over the leftfield wall for a two-run home run. Naylor left two runners on in their half of the first. In the second inning, Pratt walked and with one out, scored on a triple by Duggan. When the throw was wide to third, it allowed Duggan to cross the plate as well. Aly Miller and Fleming each singled but were left on base. Pratt continued to swing a hot bat as she had a two-run triple in third inning. Fleming doubled in the fourth but was left on base.
There was no further scoring until the sixth. In that inning, Fleming tripled and scored on a single by Brown. Trailing 6-0, Naylor then began to mount a rally, scoring four runs in their half of the sixth and then two more in the seventh before Brown fielded the ball and threw to first base to end the game and assure Silex of the title.
Fleming had three hits in her last game for Silex with Barnhart and Pratt leading in RBIs with two each. Fleming was the winning pitcher. She gave up 9 hits, five earned runs, walked two and struck out three.
This was Silex’s second state title in softball having won it back in 2006. They have finished second four times and third twice.
Coach Robert James pointed out that it takes a great team effort to win a championship now. “This season has been a coach’s dream. This group is so close-knit. The seniors lead by example and from early on it earned the respect of the younger players.
The Lady Owls will graduate senior right fielder Kimmy Duggan, Ashley Gentry, Skylar Jett and Haleigh Gatzmeyer. Silex will also lose pitcher Natalie Fleming and catcher Lindsay Barnhart.